Billboard feud heats up between Esks, Riders

The Edmonton Eskimos are retaliating against Rider Nation and their annoying habit of buying up...

The Edmonton Eskimos are retaliating against Rider Nation and their annoying habit of buying up billboard space in the city, by putting up their own green and gold propaganda. (QMI AGENCY)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:25 PM ET

EDMONTON - It's the Battle of the Billboards.

To this point, the battle has been as one sided as some of the Edmonton games so far this season. But the Eskimos have, on behalf of their fans, entered the battle when it comes to the billboards.

In a season which so far hasn't been any fun at all for Edmonton fans, finally there's something out there to have some fun with.

This week, on 112th Avenue outside the Eskimos' offices, a location where the Saskatchewan Roughriders have purchased fun billboards before, a new one appeared with a significantly different message than the ones which preceded it.

It features a Saskatchewan fan sitting and watching last year's Grey Cup game wearing a Riders No. 13 jersey totally discombobulated by the too many men on the field penalty on the "winning" field goal which cost them the game.

The message: "They can't count to 13 at Grey Cup. We have 13 Grey Cups and counting."

This comes after last year's Saskatchewan winner in the billboard game, on Stadium Road on the LRT side of Commonwealth Stadium.

It read: "Hey Eskies fans. We'll save a section for you!"

They didn't.

Saskatchewan fans swarmed Commonwealth Stadium like an infestation of grasshoppers to produce a CFL regular-season record attendance of 62,517.

The billboard thing goes back to 2003 and the one with the watermelon-headed fan and the slogan which became almost an anthem for former Saskatchewan residents living in Alberta: "We walk among you."

There's been a steady stream of inspired offerings ever since.

"Rider Pride Nationwide," was one placed not only in Edmonton but in Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg.

"Fantutorial" and the date of the game was another winner.

"It actually started as a way to connect with our ex-pat fans around the country as a way to bring them to the pay portion of our website," said Ryan Whippler, the Roughriders executive who has been booking them primarily in Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg since the beginning.

"We don't have that pay portion anymore. But the billboards brought us so much publicity and our fans love them so much, we've kept doing it."

This year, not expecting the Eskimos to enter the game, the Roughriders, celebrating their centennial, took a different approach.

"We decided not to be too cheeky," said Whippler.

The Saskatchewan billboard will be going up this week, too. Featuring a picture of Ron Lancaster and the Saskatchewan centennial logo, it reads: "100 years of pride ... And we're just getting started."

The timing of the Battle of the Billboards, at least from an Eskimos point of view, is a little off.

The Eskimos, coming off an 0-4 start with everybody in the organization and on the team put on notice and Danny Maciocia fired as general manager, have a home game Friday and they don't want to be taking the focus off the Toronto Argos.

But billboard space is rented by the month and this is the start of the month with the Saskatchewan game on the 28th. And maybe taking the focus off the current crisis and having a laugh isn't a bad thing at the moment.

"It's probably been a billboard in the making for years," said Eskimos' marketing manager Dave Jamieson.

"They'd had a lot of light-hearted fun poking fun at us and inspiring Rider Nation.

"So why not create a buzz, take a shot at the Riders and, if nothing else, make people laugh."

And while having all those Saskatchewan fans buying tickets to Eskimos games isn't a bad thing, it does tend to make the Riders feel like the home team.

"We want as many Eskimos fans at that game as possible," said Jamieson

For the record, the Saskatchewan organization thinks it's great.

"I think it's fabulous," said Whippler. "It's great for the rivalry. They're eight years behind us, but it's great to see they've finally caught up."

President and CEO Jim Hopson loved it, too.

"It cracked me up," he said. "I have to admit it made me laugh.

"I think we had it coming. We've been doing it to them for years. I guess it was time for them to put one up on us."

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


Videos

Photos